THE LADY Gets Oscar-Qualifying Run for Michelle Yeoh; Luc Besson Hopes Burma Pirates the Movie

     September 14, 2011

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Cohen Media Group has finalized a deal with EuraCorp to obtain the U.S. distribution rights to The Lady.  Cohen will release the Suu Kyi biopic before the end of the year to qualify for the Oscars, with a wider release planned for early 2012.  The move is sensible.  Stars Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis are two respected actors, and The Lady checks at least two boxes on the Oscar bait qualifications: “biopic” and “important story.”  This excerpt from the official synopsis says it all:

The Lady is the extraordinary story of Aung San Suu Kyi (Yeoh) and her husband, Michael Aris (Thewlis). It is also the story of the peaceful quest of the woman who is at the core of Burma’s democracy movement.”

Luc Besson directed The Lady, a departure from the action fare he is known for.  Hit the jump for quotes from Besson on his passion for the project.  A tease: “I actually hope the film will be pirated in Burma.”

The-Lady-movie-image-Michelle-YeohFirst, the context for that piracy quote:

“Victory for me with this film is for people to watch it, and the second victory is having them then go back home and get on the Internet to try to learn more about her. I believe she will see the film, and maybe that’s the only good aspect of piracy. I actually hope the film will be pirated in Burma. In fact, they have my blessing to pirate the movie there, because they’re not allowed to see anything. If that is the only way they are able to see that film, then that will be okay with me.”

It’s no less controversial a statement, but the provocation shifts to entirely different kind of government regulation.  Despite opposition from the Burmese government, Besson actually snuck into the country because it was important for him to portray “a real piece of Burma.”  Besson described one scene to Deadline that required smoke, mirrors, and a little luck to keep under wraps:

“We are in the age of the Internet, and there is a scene where Michelle gives this big speech. I had 3000 people, and I took a megaphone and told them it would be a problem for us if people knew about the film. We’d gone to the trouble to change the names in the script, you see. I asked if they would be kind enough to keep this to themselves, and not take a picture or put anything on the Internet. Normally, that never works. Do you know, there has not been one single thing on the Internet about that day? Not one. They knew it was important and they respected it. Try that in France, and your own brother will put it on the Internet.”

Besson was willing to go to such lengths because of his belief in the cause.  He is clearly very passionate about his subject:The-Lady-movie-image-Michelle-Yeoh

“The story had such resonance for me. We live in a society where we have freedom and forget because we are so used to it. Hers is the ultimate fight for freedom. A military force 200,000 strong fights against one woman, all 55 kilos of her, armed only with words. And they all fear her, while she doesn’t fear anyone. The only way she could be so strong is because of love. She would have never been able to stand through all this without her family. Usually, it’s the man who takes on the world, while the woman gives him life and love, and takes care of the kids. This is one of the first cases where it’s exactly the opposite and it so touched me. It made me want to be that man, who gives all this love to that person and keeps her going. You feel small when you read this script, and it makes you want to be bigger. It made me want to show this story.”

With a passionate, talented filmmaker at the helm, The Lady really does have all the tools to be a serious Oscar contender.  One problem: it might suck.

The Guardian gave it one star: “The dialogue is flat, the performances creaky and… its depiction of the political world borders on cartoonish.”

Variety wasn’t much kinder: “This handsomely mounted picture is, at nearly 2 1/2 hours, far too long and indigestible for a film whose protagonist spends most of her screen time under house arrest.”

The Hollywood Reporter follows suit: “The overlong film trudges through decades of turbulent recent history via an approach that’s part old-fashioned miniseries and part simplistic after-school special.”

So, Burma, I don’t know that you need to pirate The Lady.  Just make sure you don’t pay to see it.

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